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TOEFL Listening






In the Listening section of the IBT test, you will hear dialogues and academic talks, and you will be tested on your ability to understand them. You will hear each passage only once, and then answer questions after each is finished. The listening questions ask about the main idea, supporting details, and the way the speakers use language. You need to answer each listening question based on what is stated or implied by the speakers. Keep your headphones on for the entire Listening section because there is audio for the questions too, they are not just seen on your screen.

Usually you will have 6 listening passages. There will be twice as many academic talks as there are dialogues. Each academic talk will have 6 listening questions. Each dialogue will have 5 listening questions. The timer only counts down as you answer the questions. If you get 6 passages, the total time allowed is 60 minutes. The listening section can have up to 9 passages with a total time of 90 minutes.

You don't just hear the academic talks and dialogues. Each passage is a 3-6 minute long video. It's not quite like a movie though as there are only still images that change. The images are to help you imagine the situation and the roles of the people talking. Some of the images you might see are vocabulary terms written on a blackboard.

There's 4 main categories – Social science, Physical Science, Life Science and the Arts – from which a wide range of topics are used in the academic talks. The topic could be anything from architecture to medical techniques to oceanography to modern history. The listening passages are meant to represent what you would hear in a lecture at university. You might hear only the professor speaking, which can include an accent or stuttering or miscues. In other words, it's just like a professor would talk in a real class. Some of them will have 1-2 students asking the professor questions, or the professor might call on 1-2 students to answer something.

For the dialogues, they are meant to represent a real conversation that can happen somewhere on a university campus between a student and a professor, a counsellor or someone who works on campus. Some will have a student going to see a professor about an assignment or a course requirement. Others have a student interacting with someone who works in the library, a restaurant, the bookstore, or the admissions office for example.

There are 9 types of listening questions and 4 different kinds of formats used. All but one type is worth one point, with the other being worth 2 points. Although you'll do 34-51 questions, the scaled score for the listening section has a maximum value of 30. No, we're not sure how ETS reduces the score down to 30.

Even if you are not familiar with the topic, if your English is good enough, you will be able to answer all the questions based on the information in the listening passage. One of the best things to do to help you answer the questions is to take notes. It's unlikely you'll be able to remember all the details, especially if it's a completely unfamiliar topic.

Unlike the Reading section, you must answer each question one after another. If you don't know or are unsure about the answer, try to eliminate options that are clearly wrong and then pick one from the ones that remain. You don't want to run out of time!

So what are the listening questions like? We'll go over the 4 formats and 9 types. You will never get all of them with a single passage.

TOEFL Listening Question Format: Multiple Choice
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Main Idea
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Detail
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Purpose
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Organization
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Imply

TOEFL Listening Question Format: Multi-Select Multiple Choice
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Multi-Select Multiple Choice

TOEFL Listening Question Format: Complete a Table
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Complete a Table

TOEFL Listening Question Format: Listen Again
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Listen Again: Inference
TOEFL Listening Question Type: Listen Again: Imply


TOEFL Listening Question Format: Multiple Choice


The most common format is multiple choice. For these, there are always 4 answer options and only one correct answer (worth one point). There are 4 types: main idea, detail, purpose and imply.

TOEFL Listening Question Type: Main Idea


As each listening passage starts, the narrator will inform you of the main topic of the academic talk or dialogue so you have a slight idea of what to expect. No matter what the topic is, you should be able to understand what the main idea of the passage is. This is what this question type expects you to answer. Almost all of the prompts will include the word "mainly" in it so this type is easy to identify.

Example: Transcript of passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture from a chemistry class.

Professor: Ok, put away your lab coats please. Today we're going to cover a bit of history. Yes, yes, I know, this is a chemistry class, not a history class, but we'll be talking about the history of that most famous of chemical diagrams, the periodic table of elements. Open up your textbooks to page 143.

To understand where the table comes from, first we need to look back to when the Greek philosopher Aristotle proposed that everything is divided into four main elements: earth, fire, air, and water. Although it doesn't sound very scientific to us now, Aristotle was actually closer to describing the four states of matter than he was in pinpointing the elements. I mean... solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Nevertheless, Aristotle's initial classification of matter into four main types laid the groundwork for future scientists to ultimately discover and understand the properties of all of the individual elements we know today. The discovery of elements was a gradual process, with many different scientists having a hand in the discoveries. For example, in 1669 and 1680, both Hennig Brand and Robert Boyle independently discovered phosphorus. In 1789, Antoine Lavoisier published his Treaty on the Chemical Elements, in which he defined for the first time what an element actually is, and included a list. The list continued to grow.

As more and more elements were discovered, scientists around the world searched for a way to classify them. Now, they knew that elements interacted with each other in predictable ways. Several different methods to classify the elements were proposed. The first to notice a pattern within the elements was the chemist Johann Dobereiner. In 1829, he proposed a system called the Law of Triads in which he arranged the elements according to their atomic mass in groups of three. Then, in 1862, French geologist A.E. Beguyer de Chancourtois noticed that when ordered by atomic weights, similar elements would occur with a certain regularity. This characteristic is known as periodicity. Chancourtois used this discovery to classify the elements into a spiral form based on weight, which he published in 1862. It was the first actual written classification of the elements (therefore you could technically call it the first periodic table) although it was largely ignored at the time. Turn to page 144 for an excerpt. In 1863, John Newlands created a system he called the Law of Octaves. He compared his method of classification to that of musical octaves, saying that at intervals of eight, elements show repetition in chemical and physical properties. Newlands grouped the 56 known elements into 11 groups. His system was also not widely accepted.

It was a Russian who ultimately solved the puzzle. Dmitri Mendeleev published in 1869 what is now considered the first accurate periodic table of elements. His paper was called On the Relationships of the Properties of the Elements to Their Atomic Weights. He arranged all the known elements by atomic mass (65 at the time) but... and this is important... not exclusively. In order to fit with their recurring chemical and physical properties, some elements had to be moved to places where their mass did not match up. He tidied up the work of his predecessors and contemporaries (correcting mistakes in atomic mass and such) to make his table more accurate, but some elements were still not listed according to their mass as he and his contemporaries believed they should be. So, Mendeleev went on to predict the discovery of several new elements, which he saw as gaps in his chart. He even left the blanks in his published copy. He plotted all the known elements based on their recurring or periodic characteristics, and because of this he was able to even predict the properties of the missing elements. And, for the most part, he was right. His table had more rows than previous attempts at classification, which highlighted related elements' recurring characteristics by placing them in the same column. Interestingly, a German chemist named Lothar Meyer produced completely independent of Mendeleev's work a very similar periodic table. Unfortunately for him though, it was published the year after Mendeleev's and so Mendeleev is generally credited with creating the periodic table.

Mendeleev's periodic table became the accepted method of classification of the elements, but there have been some changes made since. When the noble gases were discovered in the late 1800's, these were added to the table in their own group. And as atomic science progressed, more information has been added to each of the elements. Scientists such as Rutherford, Moseley, and Bohr all contributed significantly to the understanding of elemental properties on an atomic level. Glenn Seaborg, an American scientist, helped to discover the transuranic elements in the 1940's and has an element named after him... Seaborgium, element 106.

Question: What is the main topic of discussion?

A.   Chronological history of Victorian chemistry
B.   The varied attempts at element classification
C.   Mendeleev's life and ultimate achievements
D.   Publication of chemistry works in the 1800's

Exaplantion: (B) is the correct answer. The lecture is concerned with the development of the modern system of element classification. (A) is incorrect. The lecture does cover developments chronologically, but it is not concerned with the whole of Victorian chemistry. (C) is wrong. Mendeleev is mentioned only as one of the many people involved in the process of creating the modern periodic table. (D) is incorrect. The focus is on the classification of elements, not chemistry works in general.

To do an actual question of this type, go to the listening sample in our IBT demo.

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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Detail


The detail type of listening question asks you to identify factual information that is stated directly in the passage. Usually the information is given to support or expand or provide an example related to the main idea. This type of question is when you'll be glad you took notes!

Sample prompts for this kind of question:
According to the professor, what is DETAIL?
What is one way that DETAIL can affect _______ ?
According to the professor, how does DETAIL do ________ ?

Example: Transcript of part of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture from an environmental science class.

Professor: To continue on with our unit on endangered plant species, today we're going to be talking about carnivorous plants. Now, the main reasons why we cover carnivory in this unit, is due to the over-collection of these unique plants by man. As you can imagine from the pictures you will see in your textbook, their unusual forms and their sheer size make rare carnivorous plants collectables, not unlike rare animal species.

Okay, so when you hear the word carnivore and relate it to the plant kingdom, you probably conjure up images from horror movies where the predatory Venus-flytrap attacks humans. Am I right? Okay, well, let's put this myth to rest for now. Carnivorous plants do not have the strength or capability for trapping humans, nor for the most part amphibians, birds, or mammals. In isolated cases, carnivorous plants might manage to trap a frog or a rodent, but that is only if the entrapped victim is ill or near death already. There is a good reason why carnivorous plants are also referred to as insectivores. 99% of the time, it is insects that provide the nutrients that these plants lack.

And, that brings us to the definition I know you're all eager to jot down. I'm going to put this in point form on the board, but you'll find it on... uh... page 78 of your textbook as well. A carnivorous plant is one that has four key features. It must have the capacity to attract, trap, and kill its prey, as well as being able to absorb its prey's nutrients. While almost all plants attract insects, and some either trap or kill insects on contact, all four features must be present in order for a plant to be classified as carnivorous. Bogs and wetland areas are the most common habitats for carnivorous plants, because unlike most plants, these feed on insects and do not require nitrogen from the soil. In a thin soiled bog, the nutrient content is low, but the water and sunshine is plentiful. Therefore, the majority of carnivorous plants are also classified as aquatic species.

So, we've covered the what and the where, now let's talk about the how. When I say how, I mean how does a plant become a predator? Well, this question is not easily answered, considering there are 9 genus of carnivorous plants with at least 600 species, each of which has a slightly different trapping mechanism. However, the five basic trapping mechanisms are, pitfall, snap, bladder, lobster, and fly-paper, and these can be examined quite closely. We're going to touch on the first two types today, and you'll read up about the other three in your assigned reading tonight. I say the first two, the pitfall and the snap, but that's not how they fall in your textbook. If you don't have time to read the whole chapter you'll have to flip back and forth a bit to find the other three. [lecture continues on]

Question: Which of the following most accurately defines a carnivorous plant?

A.   It has the capacity to attract, catch, kill, and ingest its prey.
B.   It confines its prey for long periods of time in order to thrive.
C.   It absorbs the nutrients of insects and other plants.
D.   It requires nutrient rich soil, sunlight, and an aquatic environment.

Explanation: (A) is the correct answer. The professor says, "A carnivorous plant is one that has four key features. It must have the capacity to attract, trap, and kill its prey, as well as being able to absorb its prey's nutrients." Choice (B) is mentioned as a way that the sun pitcher ingests its prey, but is not the definition of a carnivorous plant. Choice (C) is incorrect because it doesn't absorb the nutrients of plants. Choice (D) is incorrect because it doesn't require nutrient rich soil. Carnivorous plants get their nutrients from insects.

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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Purpose


Dialogues, rather than academic talks, mostly use this type. The prompt generally asks why one speaker visits the other speaker. So you need to be able to understand why the dialogue, what its purpose is, is happening. You're looking for the overall reason for the talk, instead of any detail.

Example: Transcript of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to a conversation between a student and a teacher.

Student: Hello Professor, I made an appointment to see you today at 3:00 p.m...?

Professor: Yes... Benjamin? You're right on time. Come in, have a seat. Are you here about next week's test?

Student: Yes, there's just one point that I'm still a little stuck on... and I was hoping I could go over it with you.

Professor: Of course... I always try to make time to help out students in your situation.

Student: Well, I've been reviewing the main economic concepts you discussed in class, but I'm still confused as to the difference between "foreign exchange rates" and "Purchasing Power Parity." You know... PPP.

Professor: I see. Well, let's try to narrow down the area where you're lost.

Student: You said that PPP is in some ways a more accurate measure of a currency's real value than exchange rates are, and that economists have an increasing interest in it. But... why is that really so? I mean... you said that foreign exchange rates are the more traditional measure of a currency's value. So why are some economists using PPP?

Professor: One reason that some economists prefer using it is because PPP is a better measurement of money as a store of value. The foreign exchange rate, obviously, may be better suited to measure money as an item of trade.

Student: Sorry, I don't understand.

Professor: Okay, let's separate the concepts and go over them one by one. Let's start with the more familiar concept: the foreign exchange rate. If I open today's paper and see that 1 Euro is selling for 1.5 dollars in today's foreign exchange markets, what does that mean?

Student: I could sell 1 Euro in a foreign exchange market, and get 1.5 dollars back?

Professor: Right. Now, PPP is a different measure of value, though. Do you remember what I said in class about how we can use it?

Student: You said that by using PPP we can measure a currency by a basket of goods or services that it will buy domestically.

Professor: You're catching on: a simple item... such as a hamburger, will illustrate this point. Imagine that it takes 3 Euros to purchase a hamburger in France, but only 1 dollar to purchase that same hamburger in the United States.

Student: I get it! So, in that situation the dollar would be weaker than the Euro in foreign exchange markets, but stronger in PPP terms! I could buy more goods and services in the USA with dollars than a European could purchase in Europe with Euros.

Professor: Assuming that what held for the hamburger would also hold for a range of goods and services in both countries, then the answer would be yes. However, PPP also has a number of problems that I mentioned. Do you remember any of them?

Student: I remember you said... that it might depend on which sorts of goods and services are included in the basket used to measure PPP.

Professor: Yes, and that's crucial. Things like housing, food and clothing are all items that would definitely be included in any measure of PPP. Beyond these kinds of essentials, however, what should or should not be included in PPP is not clear. Should... for example, education be included? Vacations?

Student: I see. That's why you said that foreign exchange rates are much more conceptually clearer... and practical, in terms of trade.

Professor: Correct. Foreign exchange rates are much easier to set in a market. Global currency traders post their "ask" and "bids" in currency markets, and these markets instantly transmit this information around the world.

Student: Then it sounds as if PPP is more a sort of... abstract economic term, then. I suppose for real currency traders working in currency markets, PPP isn't of much use.

Professor: Not necessarily. Even traders may keep in mind PPP as an indicator of a country's fundamental economic conditions and growth prospects.

Student: You mean even foreign exchange traders might take PPP into account when making their bid and ask decisions?

Professor: Sure! Let's take currencies of two large emerging economies: China and India. You won't get many dollars for Chinese Renminbi or Indian Rupees. However, it's undeniable that as both countries have experienced strong economic growth over the last decades, their respective currencies also buy more domestically. PPP has grown rapidly in both countries. This is despite the fact that neither currency has gained much against the dollar in foreign exchange markets over that same period.

Student: Okay, I get it. Thank-you for clarifying PPP to me.

Question: Why does the student go to see the professor?

A.   To obtain a list of the main concepts covered in the lectures
B.   To ask if a concept will appear on a test
C.   To review a concept's main principles
D.   To distinguish between two different concepts

Explanation: (D) is the correct answer. The student asks the professor to explain the difference between purchasing power parity and foreign exchange rates. Choice (A) is incorrect. The student only says he's "... been reviewing the main economic concepts...." He does not ask the professor for a list of the main concepts. Choice (B) is incorrect. The student goes to see the professor to clarify 2 concepts which may be on the test next week, but he doesn't ask the professor what will be on the test. Choice (D) is incorrect. The student needs help understanding the difference between 2 principles, not one.

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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Organization


This listening question type will ask a "why" or "how" question and is more common to be found after hearing an academic talk. You are expected to understand how the passage is organized, why it is presented to you in a certain way. Sometimes the question will ask why something was included in the talk when it seems to be unimportant or off-topic. It was included for a reason; you need to be able to figure out that reason. You might also be asked how something functions in relation to what is said before or after it. Maybe it's being used to signal the change to a subtopic or used to set off an example.

Example: Transcript of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture from an environmental science class.

Professor: To continue on with our unit on endangered plant species, today we're going to be talking about carnivorous plants. Now, the main reasons why we cover carnivory in this unit, is due to the over-collection of these unique plants by man. As you can imagine from the pictures you will see in your textbook, their unusual forms and their sheer size make rare carnivorous plants collectables, not unlike rare animal species.

Okay, so when you hear the word carnivore and relate it to the plant kingdom, you probably conjure up images from horror movies where the predatory Venus-flytrap attacks humans. Am I right? Okay, well, let's put this myth to rest for now. Carnivorous plants do not have the strength or capability for trapping humans, nor for the most part amphibians, birds, or mammals. In isolated cases, carnivorous plants might manage to trap a frog or a rodent, but that is only if the entrapped victim is ill or near death already. There is a good reason why carnivorous plants are also referred to as insectivores. 99% of the time, it is insects that provide the nutrients that these plants lack.

And, that brings us to the definition I know you're all eager to jot down. I'm going to put this in point form on the board, but you'll find it on... uh... page 78 of your textbook as well. A carnivorous plant is one that has four key features. It must have the capacity to attract, trap, and kill its prey, as well as being able to absorb its prey's nutrients. While almost all plants attract insects, and some either trap or kill insects on contact, all four features must be present in order for a plant to be classified as carnivorous. Bogs and wetland areas are the most common habitats for carnivorous plants, because unlike most plants, these feed on insects and do not require nitrogen from the soil. In a thin soiled bog, the nutrient content is low, but the water and sunshine is plentiful. Therefore, the majority of carnivorous plants are also classified as aquatic species.

So, we've covered the what and the where, now let's talk about the how. When I say how, I mean how does a plant become a predator? Well, this question is not easily answered, considering there are 9 genus of carnivorous plants with at least 600 species, each of which has a slightly different trapping mechanism. However, the five basic trapping mechanisms are, pitfall, snap, bladder, lobster, and fly-paper, and these can be examined quite closely. We're going to touch on the first two types today, and you'll read up about the other three in your assigned reading tonight. I say the first two, the pitfall and the snap, but that's not how they fall in your textbook. If you don't have time to read the whole chapter you'll have to flip back and forth a bit to find the other three.

So, the first on the list is the pitfall trap, which is typical of a pitcher plant. Through the course of evolution this trap has transformed from a simple rolled leaf to a complex snare. The sun pitcher plant, which can be found in areas of South America that receive heavy precipitation, is one example of a pitcher plant. At one time, the sun pitcher was probably nothing more than a curled up leaf that had the capacity of catching rainwater. Over the years, this leaf became more efficient by sealing its margins. However, natural selection had to account for an overflow problem. Eventually, the sun pitcher developed a small slit at the leaf margin where excess water could be released. More evolved pitcher plants have a flared leaflet at the opening. It is in these areas where insects get trapped. Many pitcher plants contain an intoxicating nectar bribe, and a waxy or thorny overhang at the top. This attracts the insect, and then makes it too slippery or sharp for them to exit. A pool of digestive enzymes helps the pitcher plant absorb the nutrients from its prey.

The second type of trap is the snap trap. This is the trapping mechanism that the Venus-flytrap relies on to capture and ingest its prey. These plants have specially designed leaves with a built in motion detector. Insects are attracted to the sweet nectar on an open leaf. After landing in the sweet spot, tiny mechanisms called trigger hairs are brushed and the leaves snap shut around the insect. It is unknown exactly how the Venus-flytrap knows to snap shut since plants don't have brains, however it likely due to tension and pressure.

Now, when we get back from the break, we're going to talk in depth about the conservational threats surrounding carnivorous plants, and why horticulturalists have started using tissue cultures or growing carnivorous plants from seed rather than snatching full-grown samples from the wild. As environmental advocates, we are all responsible for educating those around us, so that generations that follow have the opportunity to observe these and other exceptional species.

Question: How is the lecture organized?

A.   The professor writes a definition on the board and then breaks it down in four parts.
B.   The professor presents the information after the students have talked in depth about it.
C.   The professor provides a brief overview and then discusses two species in detail.
D.   The professor follows the order of the unit in the students' textbook.

Explanation: (C) is the correct answer. The professor introduces the topic, defines the type of plants they will be discussing and then gives examples of plants that illustrate two different trapping mechanisms. Choice (A) is incorrect because this only refers to the part of the lecture referring to the definition. Choice (D) is incorrect because the professor says that he is not presenting the material in the same order as it is in the text.

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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Imply


Based on what you hear in the listening passage, you should be able to decide what logically might happen next, or be able to reason what the speaker means – what is implied – by saying or asking something. For this type of question, it's the opinions, feelings, thoughts of the speaker you need to be able to understand and not just the factual information. It's a difficult type, but it's also not used very often.

Example: Transcript of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in an Earth science class.

Professor: Can any of you tell me exactly what a geyser is? If you can't, don't worry geysers are a relatively overlooked phenomenon in my opinion, anyway... especially compared to geological wonders like volcanoes or glaciers.

In simple terms, a geyser is an opening in the earth's surface that erupts intermittently, releasing groundwater that's been what we call geo-thermally heated. It's very possible that geysers are low-profile because there are so few of them in the world to study less than 700 worldwide and they all exist in about a dozen concentrated groups. There are so few of them because special chemical and geological conditions must exist for a geyser to form.

First off... underground, there's got to be a series of channels or chambers in the shape of a "tube," or "neck," pointing upward, towards the earth's surface. Geologists have created 6 major geyser models, varying significantly in shape. Some of them look similar to... tree roots, with long necks and a series of water caverns at their bases. Others look more similar to a series of "lungs" with a channel in the center and caverns of water connecting to this channel. However, nearly all of them are similar in that they have relatively wide cavernous areas deep underground, where water can gather. Then, as the neck of the geyser nears the surface, it constricts. A geyser [emphasis] must have this constriction to form; it is the chokepoint which forces the superheated water of a geyser into an observable fountain.

Secondly... the groundwater I mentioned seeps into these channels, which are pretty deep deep as in hundreds of feet below the surface. There, the water [emphasis] must come into direct contact with, or at least within close range of magma. You remember what magma is, right? Molten... extremely hot... liquid rock found beneath the earth's surface. So... once the groundwater fills the geyser's channels, which have been left empty by the last eruption, it is superheated by the magma.

Then, steam bubbles form in the upper region of the geyser channel, where the boiling point of the water is lower because there's lower pressure. A chain reaction then occurs: water at the top boils off, allowing water beneath it to rise. This water itself boils off and it in turn is replaced by water beneath it. Water then at lower and lower levels rises and boils off. Eventually, the water near the very bottom of the channel also boils, resulting in a mixture of water and steam finally erupting through the geyser's surface vent. The entire process can be likened to a pressure cooker with a very small hole in the top lid. Once the entire pot of water comes to a boil, water shoots up and out through the hole.

Now, the water you see venting from the geyser is usually centuries old: scientists estimate that it takes a minimum of 500 years for water to seep down deep enough to become heated by magma.

But none of this would be possible without the third necessary condition to form a geyser... and this is where a little bit of chemistry comes in: the groundwater must also interact with rock that contains silica or the dioxide form of silicon. Why? Well, silica is soluble in hot water, and as it dissolves its chemistry changes. As the groundwater containing the silica rises toward the Earth's surface, some of the chemically altered silica is deposited on the inner walls of the channels, forming a... coating called sinter... also known as geyserite. This coating smoothes the high-pressure release of water and steam upward through the channels... forcefully... to the Earth's surface. The sinter is what turns the rocky channel into a "pipe" that reaches from deep within the earth up to the surface. If it weren't for the sinter, the pressure would be released through cracks and holes in the walls of the geyser channels.

There's no real consistency to when geysers erupt some do so regularly... others are more unpredictable. Some eject only minor amounts of water and steam a few feet in the air; others for hundreds of feet! Remember how I said that many geysers are found in clusters? Well, over 60% of the world's geysers are right here in the U.S. in Yellowstone Park, which of course is home to possibly the most famous geyser of them all, Old Faithful.

Question: What does the professor imply about geysers?

A.   They are an untapped source of geo-thermal energy.
B.   Large ones tend to erupt less predictably than small ones.
C.   They deserve more attention than they receive.
D.   They are similar to volcanoes in some ways.

Explanation: (C) is the correct answer. At the start of her lecture, the professor says she believes that geysers are "... a relatively overlooked phenomenon... especially when compared to geological wonders like volcanoes or glaciers." Lots of people know about volcanoes and glaciers, but not many know about geysers. She explains why geysers aren't well known, but it's also clear from her entire lecture that geysers are very interesting and deserve to be known better than they are. Choice (A) is incorrect. The professor only mentions that when geysers erupt, they release groundwater that's been geo-thermally heated. She never suggests that geysers could be an energy source. Choice (B) is incorrect. The size of a geyser being a factor of how frequently they erupt is not talked about. The professor does say, "There's no real consistency to when geysers erupt – some do so regularly... others are more unpredictable." Choice (D) is not mentioned.

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TOEFL Listening Question Format and Type: Multi-Select MC


Multi-select multiple choice is easy to recognize since you'll be asked to pick more than one answer. Most of this format will ask you to click on 2 answers out of 4 possible answers, or click on 3 answers out of 5 possible answers. The detail type is mostly used with this format. So it's just like doing the single answer detail type we covered earlier except now you have to be able to identify more than one correct detail. Again, this is why note taking is important.

Example: Transcript of part of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a talk in a philosophy class.

Professor: ... Ok, so let's continue our discussion about the philosophical beliefs that emerged during the Enlightenment period. As you know, the Enlightenment was a historical period when many philosophers broke away from the religious explanations of the world, and looked toward science as a more reasonable explanation of phenomena. This was during the late eighteenth century.

As most of you know, in philosophy, one idea leads to the next, and philosophers who come later like to reinvestigate older ideas and change them to fit into a new explanation. They also liked to criticize each other. This academic criticism led to a different philosophical movement that came out of Germany and was called Idealism. Today we are going to look at a particular philosopher who is regarded as the founder of German Idealism. Immanuel Kant is considered to be the first German idealist.

Student 1: Excuse me professor, I am not clear what idealism means. I read the chapter in the book, but I don't really understand it. Could you explain it please?

Professor: Sure, yes, let's backtrack a bit. In philosophy, to be an idealist is a little bit different than the way we use it in regular conversation. The philosophical meaning of idealism is that we do not directly know objects. We can only directly know ideas. I mean, ideas are like imprints, which are like the pictures of these objects in our minds. For example, take fire. We can see fire, so we have a picture of it in our minds. We can touch fire, so we know that it is hot, but sight and touch are sensations. We know the picture of fire in our minds and we know the idea of heat in our minds but not the fire itself. Idealists were a group of philosophers that believed we could only know the ideas in our minds, not the objects they represent. All we really know are the ideas. This was the basic theory of how human beings understand the world according to idealists.

Student 1: I think it means that we can only really know our ideas for sure. Everything else might exist but we can't claim to really know it because it is not a part of us.

Professor: You are getting there. Yes. Idealists, remember, were European thinkers who were trying to show that each person has a different way of understanding something. In each person's mind the "truth" is a little different. Reality is subjective because we all understand it a little differently.

There were many philosophers that were idealists, but let's get back to Kant.

Now, Where was I?

Right... umm... In the later part of the 1700s, Kant criticized both the rational philosophers who believed that reason could lead to understanding, and the empirical philosophers, who believed that we only learn through observation and experience. He tried to bring the two groups of thinkers together in his own form of idealism. He believed that we had certain ways of looking at the world in our minds, and that we could predict certain patterns by using reason, but he also claimed that there are things that we can only really know though experience. We cannot predict everything that we will encounter in the world. He claimed that both reason and experience were important. [lecture continues on]

Question: What is true about Idealism? Choose 2 answers.

A.   It is a way of understanding physics.
B.   It was based on scientific thought.
C.   It claims we cannot know objects.
D.   It was developed in 1700.

Explanation: Choice (B) and (C) are correct. In the opening to the discussion, the professor says, "As you know, the Enlightenment was a historical period when many philosophers broke away from the religious explanations of the world, and looked toward science as a more reasonable explanation of phenomena." The professor also offers this definition: "The philosophical meaning of idealism is that we do not directly know objects. We can only directly know ideas." Choice (A) confuses the similar sounding words philosophy and physics. Choice (D) is incorrect. The professor says idealism was developed in the late 18th century.

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TOEFL Listening Question Format and Type: Complete a Table


This type is a table with options related to the question asked. For each option, you have decide which of 2-3 columns is where it correctly belongs. If you get a 3 column table, the value of the question is 2 points instead of 1 point.

This question type can test many different kinds of skills: ability to understand relationships between ideas which may be said explicitly or are only implied, ability to organize information differently than the way it was given in the passage, ability to classify items into categories, ability to make comparisons, ability to identify cause and effect, ability to recognize the steps in a process. You could easily spend a lot of time on answering this question! It can be challenging, but taking notes as you listen to the passage should really help.

Example: Transcript of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a conversation between a professor and a student.

Student: Hi Professor Mills. Do you have a few minutes to talk with me?

Professor: Sure Martin. I have a little time before my next appointment. Come in.

Student: I was wondering if you could give me some advice. Last week in class you were talking about research funding opportunities in the history department for graduate students. I am really interested in doing my Master's degree. Could you give me some more information?

Professor: Well. You know the research opportunities that I told you about were for graduate students writing their thesis projects. That would be at the end of their programs.

Student: That's what I want to ask you about. You mentioned that students who are writing their theses on Mexican history could apply for a travel grant to visit some of the historical sites in Mexico.

Professor: Yes. But....

Student: I think that's what I want to do!

Professor: Martin, are you aware that you will need to commit to two years of a Master's program before you can apply for graduate funding?

Student: Yes, I know. A Master's degree is a two-year program.

Professor: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You will need to apply and be accepted to the graduate program at this university first.

Student: That's what I want to ask you about. What do I need to do to apply?

Professor: O.K. I think I understand. So you want to apply to do a Master's degree in history. Then, near the end of your program, you want to try to get funding to do research in Mexico.

Student: Yes!

Professor: O.K. I got it. Well, have you visited the graduate department web site yet?

Student: No. I haven't.

Professor: That's a good place to start. You can download the application forms that you need from the website. It also has a lot of important information about the application deadlines. Make sure you check those because I think the deadline is coming up soon.

Student: I will. So, I download the form, then what?

Professor: Well, you will have to fill out the form and include it in your application package.

Student: O.K. That sounds easy enough.

Professor: You will also need two letters of reference from professors who know your work. Wait a minute... I think that policy has changed. That's right. You will actually need three letters of reference, but one of them can be non-academic.

Student: What do you mean non-academic?

Professor: I mean that if you choose, one of the letters can be work related. If you have a job, your employer can write a reference letter for you, or if you have had an internship position during your studies your supervisor can recommend you for the graduate program based on the quality of your work.

Student: Oh, I see. So I will need three letters in total, but one of them can be from someone who knows me professionally rather than academically. Or I can choose to have all three of the letters be academic references.

Professor: Yes. That's a good way of putting it.

Student: Is there anything else that I need to do?

Professor: Yes, you will also have to write an essay that explains your academic background as well as your research interests in the graduate program. It is really important that you explain why you want to become a graduate student in history, and what your goals are.

Student: Wow. That's a lot to think about. I'd better get started. Professor Mills, would you be willing to write a reference letter for me? I have taken three of your courses, and my marks were pretty high. Could you recommend me?

Professor: I'd be happy to Martin.

Student: Thank you. I appreciate your help.

Professor: Good luck with your application.

This is an image of a completed question:



Explanation: Answer choice (A) repeats the word history department, but there is no mention in the dialog about this department's website. Answer choice (B) is mentioned half way through the dialog: "You can download the application forms that you need from the website." This refers to the graduate department website mentioned in the earlier exchange. Answer choice (C) is related to asking for advice, but is not mentioned. Answer choice (D) is mentioned half way through the dialog: "You can download the application forms that you need from the website." Answer choice (E) repeats the words forms and online, but is not mentioned.

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TOEFL Listening Question Format: Listen Again


The last listening question format involves listening again to a small part of the talk and then answering the question which relates to something said. The 2 types of questions asked are imply (why does the speaker say something) and inference (what does the speaker mean). As the two types are imply and inference, you can tell choosing the correct answer won't be as simple as knowing a fact or detail.

The narrator will tell you to listen to part of the passage again, which plays automatically, and then the question will be heard. As part of the question, you may or may not hear a few lines of the audio just played repeated.

TOEFL Listening Question Type: Listen Again: Inference


You must be able to understand what lies beneath what the speaker is only suggesting, not directly stating (or asking), about something. Sometimes you need to know the alternate meaning of an idiom or common expression in English. You may also be asked if you understand the speaker's attitude or opinion about something. To do so requires noticing the emotions conveyed by the speaker. Are they upset or angry or happy or uncertain? Does the speaker seem to like or dislike something? These are your clues to help you answer this type.

Example: Transcript of part of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to part of a conversation between two students.

...
Student A: (concerned) Did I miss much?

Student B: (reassuringly) Not really. Professor White was like, 10 minutes late for class. So we didn't even get started till twenty after or something. We just, um, we went over the last couple of chapters of The Catcher in the Rye.

Student A: Oh, right. I forgot that we were finishing that up this week.

Student B: Yeah, and we're supposed to have, like, the first three chapters of Of Mice and Men read by next class.

Student A: I've just been, I mean, I pretty much just skim the books because we go into so much detail in class.

Student B: I know. Professor White doesn't leave much out. I guess you don't really have to, you know, read the novel thoroughly unless you're going to write a paper on it.

Student A: Well, that's why I'm worried about what I missed yesterday. My term paper is on, you know, the conflict between Holden Caulfield and, um, the authority figures in The Catcher in the Rye.

Student B: Well, I can tell you what she went over.

Student A: (hesitantly) Oh, OK. Did you take down any notes?

Student B: Yeah, I took a few notes. Nothing much though... maybe a page or two.

Student A: Oh really? Well, would you mind, I mean, would it be OK if I photocopied them? I could take notes for you next class if you want to work on your History paper, or something.

Student B: Sounds good. My handwriting's pretty messy though. You might not even be able to read it. But it would be, it would be great if you took notes for me next class. I could just spend the whole morning in the library.

Student A: (relieved, glad to return the favour) Yeah, sure. I have to go to the library after class anyway, so... so why don't I just meet you there and give you the notes.

Student B: Sounds good. Oh, the notes. Umm, I think I have them here somewhere. (searching) Oh yeah, here they are. Right, just a couple of pages. You think you can decipher my writing?

Student A: Let's see. Yeah, it looks fine. Not much different from my writing. [talk continues]


Replayed part of the passage:

Narrator: Listen again to part of the conversation. Then answer the question.

Student B: Well, I can tell you what she went over.

Student A: Oh, OK. Did you take down any notes?

What does the student mean when he says this:

Student A: Oh, OK. Did you take down any notes?

Question: What does the student mean when he says this:
[heard again]: Student A: Oh, OK. Did you take down any notes?

A.   He would like to compare notes.
B.   He would like to borrow his friend's notes.
C.   He wants to make sure that his friend's notes are correct.
D.   He always copies his friend's notes.

Explanation: The correct answer is, He would like to borrow his friend's notes. We know from the conversation that Student A missed the American Literature class, and that he is "worried about what (he) missed." Student B offers to explain what happened in class and Student A then asks if she took down any notes. From this you can infer that Student A would like to borrow the notes.

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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Listen Again: Imply


You have to be able to make a logical conclusion based on the facts given in the talk. You may be asked what is implied about a topic or subtopic based from what is provided in the talk, or what is implied by the professor about a topic or concept, or what the speaker might do next.

Example: Transcript of part of the passage you would HEAR:

Narrator: Listen to a conversation between a student and a university clerk.

Student: Um, hi there. Wow that's a lot of paperwork! Maybe I should come back another time.

Clerk: [Friendly] Oh, come on in. No matter what I do, that pile of paper never gets any smaller anyway. I think it's cursed. [Laughs] Every time I do a bit, it just replaces itself. Oh well. Now, what can I do for you?

Student: Well, I, uh, I got a bit behind on my work this year and I had to drop a couple of classes. So I'm hoping to make it up by taking some summer courses, if possible. Uh, it's just that I'm not sure where to start.

Clerk: Ah. Okay. Well I assume that you've never taken summer classes before? [pauses] OK then. Um, the first thing you should know is that they are not scheduled the same way as the classes you're used to. Uh, the session is shorter, for one thing.

Student: Great! Does that mean the days are shorter too? Because um, I sort of tend to lose focus a bit during really long classes. I have a 3-hour class this semester and it's sort of killing me!

Clerk: [Worried] Uh, actually, it's just the opposite. See, because instructors have only six weeks with you instead of twelve, they need to cram more information into the session. So, uh, actually the classes are 3 hours every day, and instead of having a one-and-a-half hour class 3 times a week like you're used to, you'll be taking these longer classes every day. [talk continues]


Replayed part of the passage:

Narrator: Listen again to a statement made by the clerk. Then answer the question.

Student: Um, hi there. Wow that's a lot of paperwork! Maybe I should come back another time.

Clerk: [Friendly] Oh, come on in. No matter what I do, that pile of paper never gets any smaller anyway. I think it's cursed.

Question: What does the clerk imply when she says this:
[heard again]: Clerk: No matter what I do, that pile of paper never gets any smaller anyway. I think it's cursed.

A.   It is not her fault that her paperwork never gets done.
B.   She is annoyed that the student is interrupting her work.
C.   The student has not come at an especially bad time.
D.   She never tries to tackle the work she has to do.

Explanation: (C) is the correct answer. The clerk implies she is always busy, and so the student's visit is no more inconvenient than it would be any other time. (A) is wrong. She is joking when she says the pile of paper is cursed. (B) is the opposite of what the clerk is trying to imply. (D) is wrong. The clerk says she tries to do her work, but she always gets more.

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To show examples of all the Listening questions is a bit difficult. You can get a good feel for what the different types are like if you do all of our free mini-TOEFL tests. So be sure to check them out. You might even win yourself an iPod. If you want some more basic listening skills practice, there's 2 different sample lessons you can try in our TOEFL Grammar Skills Trainer demo.



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